By Mary Kuhlman
Romantic notes, hand holding and first kisses - young love is typically full of blissful moments.
But that's not the case for all Indiana teenagers.
Colleen Yeakle, coordinator of prevention initiatives for Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, says an estimated 12 percent of teens experience some form of dating abuse each year that can result in emotional or social difficulties, physical injuries and trouble learning.
"We see a lot of things ranging from physical forms of abuse to emotional abuse, name calling, put-downs," she explains. "You know, it's typically a series of behavior used to make the person feel not good about themselves, to feel dependent on their partner, to feel controlled."
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence has designated October Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Yeakle says her organization is encouraging parents to talk to their teens about healthy, responsible dating relationships to show them what respectful behavior is so they can give and expect to receive it from a dating partner.
<>Yeakle says a national study found only about 25 percent of parents reported talking with their child about dating relationships. But she says having the conversation can help to prevent dating abuse, and show the child that his or parents' door is always open.
"It'll let your kids know, 'You know, we're here for you as parents if you ever have trouble,' because you've already started having those conversations early," she says. "You've really set the stage to enable your kids to come to you if they are having trouble."
Yeakle stresses engaging in conversations about preventing abuse and standing for healthy behaviors is also important in schools, at sports clubs and youth service organizations.
"That's where kids really learn how relationships work and if we can guide them toward respectful relationship behaviors, we'll have a lot less abuse to respond to," she points out.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.